America’s farmers and ranchers will need more assistance from the federal government to recover from the painful economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture.
Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas spoke to Farm Policy Fact’s podcast Groundwork in an episode recorded earlier this month.
He is the former chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and has been in close contact with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue throughout the government’s response to the pandemic.
“America is tough and she’s resilient and our people are tough and resilient,” he said. “And we will get through this. It’s hard right now but there will be better times ahead of this and part of that is just that great American get-it-done spirit that is coming through in lots of different ways.”
Conaway outlined the steps the federal government has taken to support the economy broadly and rural America specifically.
The pandemic has hit rural communities hard. Agricultural sectors that fuel Main Street economies were already down by a third over the last seven years and now they are seeing declines in prices of up to 40 percent.
“Unlike the rest of this country that came into this crisis in relatively good shape, the producers were not in good shape,” Conaway said. “They’ve borrowed money, they’ve used up capital and they were facing really difficult times.”
Conaway said he was disappointed in the amount of money agriculture ended up with in the $2 trillion CARES Act but said the overall effort to get help to Americans who need it most is encouraging.
The bill provides $9.5 billion in assistance for agriculture producers who have been affected by COVID-19 and $14 billion for the Commodity Credit Corporation.
Conaway said Secretary Perdue is trying to spread that money as far as he can, across as many segments of agriculture as he can.
But more will be needed to be done.
“No one expects the economy to rebound in the second quarter,” Conaway said. “You can pretty much argue that there’s going to be another round necessary for production agriculture and rural America.”
This episode was recorded earlier this month. For the most up-to-date information from Ranking Member Conaway, please visit republicans-agriculture.house.gov.